on February 14, 2004
Well, today is Valentine's Day and love is in the air. Now is the time for me to write my long-awaited review for 2001's "Moulin Rouge." Set in the village of Monmarte in 1899, this film brings Baz Luhrmann's visual talents to the forefront, setting the stage for the return of musical cinema. Actor Ewan McGregor portrays a poor English writer named Christian, whose life is changed forever upon entering the Moulin Rouge. Underneath the flashing lights of the red windmill, the wild carnival barker Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) proudly presents to the rich an endless night of forbidden pleasures: sex, music, and alcohol. Thanks to the drunken antics of Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) and a Narcoleptic Argentinian (Jacek Kaman), Christian falls madly in love with the show's star, Satine (Nicole Kidman). However, their blossoming relationship slowly turns sour due to two terrible facts. First, Satine isn't allowed to fall in love; as a courtesean, she is paid only to make men believe what the want to believe. Second, she is required to sleep with the violent, possessive Duke (Richard Roxburgh), who offers her money and a chance to become a legitimate actress. Soon enough, as she and Christian try desperately to hide the love they share, the vulnerable Satine could no longer hide behind the mask of the smouldering temptress. Then, when the Duke demands the deeds to the Moulin Rouge, she has to either forget Christian forever or risk living off the streets.
Audiences will be astounded by Baz Luhumann's use of dazzling cinematography, breathtaking sets, stunning costumes, and an eclectic score (which roughly incorporates elements of pop, swing, jazz, and opera). The can-can sequence alone was enough to draw me in; the rapid, kinetic editing of this dance number captures the whirlwind excitement of the club in action. Also, the two halves of the story bear the masks of comedy and tragedy, blending together farce, tongue-in-cheek sexual humor, heartwrenching suspense, and the gripping fear of abuse. From beginning to end, every emotion is pushed to the extreme.
However, "Moulin Rouge" is quite problematic in some areas. What I found to be most unfortunate about this movie is how the tale is far too predictable. Viewers will know ahead of time that Satine, the "Sparkling Diamond," will die of tuberculosis. After the tragic ending is revealed at the start of Christian's narration, the woman repeatedly wrestles with the disease, coughing up blood and fainting to the floor. The plotline itself centers around a disastrous love triangle between the beautiful Satine, the kind Christian, and the insanely jealous Duke. Such a concept has been rehashed too many times in television and literature. To make the sitution even more obvious, the real-life events of the three characters reflect Christian's "Spectacular Spectacular," an opulent play about a courtesean having to choose between a traveling sitar player and the cruel Maharajah. Another flaw in "Moulin Rouge" concerns how the songs were structured. Most of the contemporary pop lyrics were messily glued together. As a result, while some musical moments successfully resurrect elements of a Broadway show, other scenes aren't any better than overblown music videos. Finally, despite the fact that bittersweet love is the movie's main theme, it inflates itself to the point of slushiness. Still, there are some incredible moments one can look forward to; Ewan McGregor's performance of Elton John's "Your Song" brought me to tears. Jacek Kaman's tango in Sting's "Roxanne" escalated the tension between Satine and the Duke. Jim Broadbent's soliloquy of Queen's "The Show Must Go On" once again presented the theatre in all its splendor. And, of course, how can I forget Nicole Kidman's daring and carefree modernization of Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend?"
If you are a big fan of grand Broadway musicals, I recommend you try "Moulin Rouge" at least once. It whet the audience's appetite for better musical cinema, allowing "Chicago" to make a bang at the box office. Does anybody care for a glass of absinthe?
on February 25, 2003
What a frustrating movie! This may be remembered as the film that hastened the return of musicals, and it features dazzling costumes, sumptuous colors, and imaginative film techniques, but there are so many problems that I came away feeling cheated.
It was a creative and daring idea to set a musical in 1900 Montmartre's famed "Moulin Rouge" using contemporary music of the late 20th century. Unfortunately, the film is seriously undermined by the lack of plot development, a contrived romance, and the have-it-both-ways mocking and celebratory treatment of the "Bohemian." The movie alternates between a tongue-in-cheek farce and a serious declaration of the importance of love and other ideals. When the company performs Madonna's "Material Girl" or "Like a Virgin," it plays wonderfully as camp (except for the Duke's ridiculous mugging in the latter song). However, only Jim Broadbent as the master of ceremonies and manager of the nightclub consistently understands the difference between witty camp and lowbrow, diluted, burlesque.
The movie's very promising opening has Toulouse-Lautrec and Satie writing an absurd, avant-garde play, but their original idea for "Spectacular, Spectacular" is co-opted by the financier, the Duke (a buffoonish caricature who is simply too broadly loutish to believe). And yet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Satie still seem to love the production as much as the one they had originally planned. It would have been intelligent and fun to satirize the commercialism of the eventual play, but that opportunity is never taken. Musical tastes will differ, of course, but as the two lovers exchange snippets of love songs of the last 30 or so years, it feels like the pending CD was in mind. The songs that fit best (e.g., "Nature Boy") are repeated ad nauseum. OK, we get it! Kidman and McGregor are excellent given the material (although their characters' romance seems contrived). Both sing well, though Kidman, who often sounds too amped up, is best when singing softer, more intimate songs.
The art direction and sets are beautiful, and there's a luminescent caricature of Montmartre that recalls "Babe, Pig in the City." Techniques reminiscent of early photography and silent movies are superbly done, but limited mostly to the beginning. There are also redundant shots of our woeful hero and the Paris skyline, and so much forced glitter and dazzle that it's like an overdose of the Disney electric parade. Conversely, the cuts are sometimes too quick; one yearns to bathe in more atmosphere. The moments of magic and beauty are too often offset by a banal plot, as well as hollow, self-congratulatory celebrations of freedom, truth, and love. As Satine declares, "diamonds are a girl's best friend," but it feels like box office receipts have the upper hand here.
on October 1, 2002
This is definitely one of the most individual and original movies I have ever seen, and it actually warrants multiple viewings, but only if you are truly interested in cinema. Because after three times watching this (masterpiece? mess?) I still cannot decide what I think of it.
There is some great work here. This is not like anything you have seen before. The editing, the set design, the photography is not for everyone, but it is what it is. You cannot really say that it is bad. He acheived exactly what he wanted to. In a world of cookie cutter films where the most mundane ideas are transformed into bland, passive entertainment, this film dares you to like it on its own terms.
How can a film that is so dazzling to look at have the most boring dialog ever? I can understand how the story is kept simple. These kinds of films (Titanic, etc.) need to be because it is more about the emotion than the story. But, the words coming out of these actors' mouths are just plain dull. Nothing quotable. You don't ever sit around and quote Moulin Rouge. Heck, the only thing that people ever do quote is the line from "Nature Boy" (The only thing you'll ever learn...).
The film takes big missteps in several key scenes, most of all with the initial love scenes between Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, mainly the absolutely horrible medley of love songs that they sing to each other. A moment that should take us to the next level ala Leo Dicaprio sketching Kate Winslet, but it falls flat. Kidman trying to be funny in her first scene with McGregor and later with the Duke are totally miscalculated. You just stare at the screen and wonder when the scene will end.
Better moments include Jim Broadbent singing "Like A Virgin" and the final love song with Kidman and McGregor, which actually acheives what the the entire movie tries to--a moment of magic.
I applaud all involved for swinging for the fences on this one. Baz Luhrman needs to hire a screenwriter who can write memorable dialogue, and believe it or not, he needs to get a better editor, so that he can excise some scenes entirely instead of just using him to cut, cut, cut.
An incredibly interesting film, not a big success, but also not a failure. We at least need more efforts like this.
on July 9, 2002
The most risky film of the year is sensational, gutsy, shamelessly self-indulgent, and nearly too big for its own good--it practically pulls itself off. Moulin Rouge has its roots in silent melodrama, flashy musicals, rock videos, and vaudeville theater, but Luhrmann synthesizes them into his own child. It's a film that scarily defiant in its assurance. The film is in bold, vibrant colors, but it's black and white: you either gobble it down or you spit it out.
Unlike a movie like A Beautiful Mind, which is tailor-made for an audience greedy for noble, meaningful pap, Moulin Rouge realizes how silly it is and flaunts its own ridiculousness. It's glorious trash and it knows it; it's a proud [specimen] of a movie, eager to service everyone and try anything, but determined to keep its dignity in the process. And yet, Moulin Rouge never seems to really kick as hard as it promises to. It's a furious stunt, all right, and the first time around it hits you good. Even when it fails, though, it's more accomplished and provocative than most anything else out there at the moment. It's the kind of film, however, that I can respect, but never really love.
on May 31, 2002
Luhrmann and co-writer Pearce evidently think that having their hero walk around repeatedly proclaiming that "this is a story about love" somehow makes it so. It may well be the case that "the greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love, and to be loved in return," but rather than be told so ad nauseum, I'd much rather be told a story which demonstrates it. On that count, the Christian/Satine love story fails. It is escalated so rapidly and explored so superficially that it's hardly even moving, let alone a compelling argument for love as the meaning of life. But such is the nature of musicals where plot is subservient to spectacle. And on that count, 'Moulin Rouge!' succeeds marvelously. As always with Luhrmann, music and production design are the primary attractions. And this looks and sounds utterly spectacular. Kidman and McGregor shine, and seeing Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh perform 'Like A Virgin' is worth the purchase price alone. (Roxburgh entirely steals the show. We can now forgive him for 'M:I-2'.) But don't be fooled by the taglines. This is not a story about love. It's not really a "story" about anything. It's a lecture on the history of romantic musicals and a two-hour commercial for a couple of CDs. But for all that, it's highly original and will still have you grinning from ear to ear.
on December 1, 2003
Look, I hate the be a spoilsport in the midst of all these mega-glowing reviews, but in my view this film's worst sin -- and I'm surprised no one has mentioned it before -- is that it's about as French in feeling, sentiment, accent, attitude, etc., as a bunch of soggy french fries. It might as well have been set in Baghdad for all that it mattered. Call it by any other title than Moulin Rouge -- about as French as a title gets -- and I would have enjoyed being dazzled by this colorful and genuinely imaginative production on those terms. But for what it was, there was little of anything that struck me as particularly French in feeling whatsoever, and it was so obviously lacking that I found it offensive and was unmoved by its hyper brilliance. Imagine the original Moulin Rouge -- okay, not a musical but it did have music! -- with Jose Ferrer and it's French attitude and French accents and French flavors and scenes and gaiety and hues and art, and at least the film was deserving of the title Moulin Rouge. By contrast, this other Moulin Rouge could have been entitled Progressive Experimental Adventuresome Generic Musical set anywhere in time and French in name only. Other than the lack of a French accent and attitude, this sincere experimental producion in hyper-creativity has helped to regenerate the musical genre in dazzling fashion. The producers went all out and took some risks. Bravo!... I also thought Nicole Kidman was exceptional... She continues to surprise me with her versatility.
on July 4, 2003
While this movie was technically brilliant and pleasing to look at, I believe this movie is overrated. Baz Lurhmann did a great job putting this movie together, but it was just a bit too much. First off, I love musicals and when I first saw this in the theaters, I was dazzled at it and rejoiced in the return of the movie musical. For this reason, I will give thanks to this movie, because it paved the way for the far superior movie and musical, Chicago, to win Best Picture the following year...but I think that this movie, on second viewing, wasn't as good as the first time seeing it...I guess the first time I saw it, it was more of a novelty thing because it was a muscial. I think the singers in this movie, with the exception of Nicole Kidman, are just plain awful...Does Ewan McGregor have to shout everytime he sings?? Even when he sings soft notes, it sounds as if he is shouting. The first 30 miutes or so with all that camera movement was awful...it felt like the director was trying to do too much and make it unique, but it ruined the movie. Overall, it was just an OK movie but an awful musical...horrible, borrible singers...
on July 24, 2002
Oh my, I can see the appeal this movie has on young girls. Its got everything---and it almost looks like it was set up for them as an audience. Ugh. As an adult....eeew. I found this movie hard to sit through. I was disappointed that all the songs seemed to be taken from other sources. No originals---would we put up with an original musical, however, nowadays? Yes, the whole movie is eyecandy, the story is the sappy story of love and all that and the obstacles against them. Sweet story. Yes yes. And the whole dying scene was overdone, overplayed. It was just---too romantic for me? Dare I say that? I just wasn't impressed. I guess I didn't get it. Satine's name even looks like its spelled wrong.
The whole premise: a bohemian dude shows up at the Moulin Rouge and falls for the courtesan, Satine ie Nicole Kidman. Always gorgeous yet cold. He has never fallen in love. Boo hoo. Well, they fall in love. But the duke! He must have her! The evil duke must have whats mine! The young lovers meet behind the dukes back, tee hee. Then the scenario builds to its finale, Satine is dying, oh the drama! If you are between the ages of 7-27, I believe you'll love this movie. Don't get me wrong, I cried in the end too, but boy was I glad it was over! Yeehaw!
on May 24, 2002
Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGreggor star in a visually stunning retelling of the classic Moulin Rouge tale. Ewan stars as an aspiring playwright that has come to Paris to make a name for himself when a dazzling actress/prostitute (Kidman) catches his eye when he happens to wander into Moulin Rouge, a berlesque house in 19th century France. They have an affair that is not meant to be. While the film is visually attractive and new age, the content is very thin. I know most fanatics of the film would argue that content is not the prime focus of film's intent and is simply a work of art in motion, I do appreciate that, don't get me wrong. I can justify my rating. For its overall appeal it is lower on a five point scale-a two, but for its artistic value, a five. Thus the average is three. It is an "artsy" film, sorry for the label, but there is no other way to describe it. I recomend it to true fans of the story or someone interested in seeing theaterlike productions put to film. Traditional movie viewers, beware.
on May 7, 2002
Moulin Rouge tells the story of penyless writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) who falls for the Moulin Rouge cortisane Satine (Nicole Kidman). But Satine has to be bound to the Duke in order to keep the Moulin rouge an his owner Zidler from bankrupcy. And to complicate things, Satine is slowly dying of an incurable disease.
The first 45 minutes of the movie i found myself amazed by the spectacle, the superonic pace, the surealism. It made me forget the bad jokes and the weak story, which has been told a thousand times. So now that my eyes got used to the viusal style of Baz Luhrman they got tired. The movie reched his lowpoint with an awful Madonna cover and became overloaded and annoying. The songs ween't that great in general but I still liked the idea of an overblown musical. But little would have been more and the theatrical acting and the continuous "look what we can do" killed this movie from being interesting as a whole.
The quality of the DVD is amazing and the special features are interesting and I have great respect for Mr. Luhrmans creativity. I just hope that he won't keep repeating himself and won't be affraid to do something compelling without pomp and glamour.
"Moulin Rouge" was definately worth seeing but couldn't grab my attention from start to finish for its artifficial hipness and lack of depth.